The CERB has two main objectives: Catch Canadians who don't qualify for regular EI and relieve some of the burden on regular EI by funnelling some of those who do qualify into this quicker-to-release relief program. It's $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.
Who can apply
- You are at least 15 years old and Canadian.
- You have stopped working because of COVID-19 and are receiving zero income or government benefits for at least 14 days straight. This is you if: You lost your job because of COVID-19; You are sick with COVID-19, quarantined because of COVID-19 or are caring for someone sick with COVID-19; You’re a parent whose kids aren’t at school or daycare, and therefore you’re stuck at home caring for them; You’re a contract worker who can’t get an ROE (record of employment); You’re self-employed (musicians, massage therapists, writers, crafters, business owners).
- AND you earned at least $5,000 in the last 12 months.
You can't apply if you were a student waiting for summer work who didn't make $5,000 in the last 12 months or if you quit your job voluntarily—which makes those whose employers aren't laying them off but who feel at risk by going to work uncovered. If this is you, you can contact the NS government and report your concerns
The quickest way to get things moving is to log in to your MyAccount on the Canada Revenue Agency website. If you've filed your taxes or checked your TFSA contribution limit (or your parents do your taxes for you), you likely still have an account. Track down your password before you begin. If you need to reset your password you'll need to have your Social Insurance Number (SIN), a copy of last year's tax return, your birthdate and the answers to the security questions for your account. (If you guess, and get it wrong, you'll be locked out and have to call to apply.)
If you've filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, you can set up an account online.
If you filed taxes before 2018 you must call 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041 to apply. If you've never filed taxes you must call 1-800-959-8281 to apply.
If you're applying over the phone, make sure you have your SIN and your postal code on hand.
(You can find your SIN on any tax returns or tax related forms you've received. If your employer gave you an envelope and said "here's your T4", that document has your SIN on it.)
Then, make sure direct deposit and mailing info is set up and up-to-date on your CRA account. This will allow the money to be deposited right into your bank account. (It will also mean all other cheques you may get from the federal government (GST, Canada Child Benefit) will also now be direct deposit.)
Next, get ready to feel personally offended by your date of birth. To deal with high volumes of applicants, application days are being split up by birth date. (If you're among the thousands of Canadians who are still trying to get through on the EI website, you'll understand why.)
What you'll get
You'll $500 a week ($2,000 a month).
If you set up direct deposit, you should see money in your account three businesses days from the day you apply. If you haven't you'll get your cheque in the mail about 10 days from the day you apply. (Make sure your mailing address is correct!)
This application process gets you the $2,000 CERB once. You have to reapply for each four-week period you've lost income due to COVID-19, and you can only apply for a maximum of four periods.
If you have children, make sure you're signed up for the Canadian Child Benefit and any GST credit you're entitled to.
If you're a student who didn't work during the school year and doesn't qualify for the CERB see if you can qualify for student loans (or grants!)
If you think that the CERB should cover you and it doesn't, fill out this Statistics Canada survey so the government knows you exist and need better support. Also, the government of Nova Scotia is announcing the details of its own support program today, which is slated to catch some of those who have fallen through the cracks.
Money you receive through the CERB is taxable. "The tax is not taken at the source, so Canadians receive the full amount up-front," says CRA spokesperson Christopher Doody via email. "Canadians will need to report any payments received on next year's tax filing. An information slip will be made available for the 2020 tax year in My Account under Tax Information Slips (T4 and more)."
If you need help with your application
The government has two options for helping yourself: the CERB website is here if you can get online, and there's an automated phone help line at 1-833-966-2099.
We asked the department of finance how to get help from a human, and were told to phone the Canadian Revenue Agency's "individual tax inquiry service." No surprise that the service is busy, so be prepared to wait on hold for a while. The number is 1-800-959-8281.